Adapting to change

At the time of writing, we have all had to adapt to a massive amount of change resulting from the coronavirus lockdown.

As a people-oriented business, based on relationships with clients and colleagues, our priority was to ensure we were, and continue to be, able to look after you and our team while following the evolving Government guidance.

The start of lockdown required a fundamental change in our operating procedures to put the appropriate structures in place to ensure our business could continue to function effectively. Our I.T. and Operations teams did a brilliant job in getting everyone set up for homeworking practically overnight. It was pretty seamless, and within a matter of days, we were having virtual meetings with clients and colleagues using video conferencing platforms like MS Teams. This enforced change has accelerated the adoption of technologies which would otherwise have taken years to achieve.

Operationally, we quickly put in place processes to ensure that any post could still be dealt with and introduced DocuSign as a secure way of enabling you to sign and return paperwork to us electronically.

Delivering our service to you is a real team effort. We have spoken to four members of Old Mill to hear how they’ve adapted their own lives and wellbeing to the situation and what the change has meant for the clients they work with.

July 28, 2020

Meet Julia

Chartered Financial Planner, Julia Banwell who has been with Old Mill for 23 years has changed her office view from the main tower of Wells Cathedral in the distance, to aspects of the Quantocks and the Mendips from her farm office at home.

The whole experience has been an extremely positive one with a fresh new outlook and more availability for her clients, team and family. Her daughter Olivia has even introduced a short 10.30 am daily tea break for the whole family, allowing quality time together during the day.

Being able to communicate via video or phone has enabled Julia to be more accessible to her clients and team. The time saved not having to travel between offices, or to meet with clients, can be spent on assuring client conversations, emails and strategic financial planning. Julia especially enjoys giving clients and colleagues a glimpse into her home environment which she feels has helped them to become even closer during this period.

A change of pace in lockdown

Julia would have normally spent the majority of her weekends at swimming practice or pony competitions with Olivia and her husband, Robert. The change of pace has helped her to reconnect with their family farm, oversee the implementation of social distancing within their livery yard and support the local community of Wedmore by continuing to buy her food locally. And like many others, she has achieved those jobs that they’ve been putting off for ages around the house and farm.

"Working from home during lockdown has been a super experience for me because Old Mill had previously put in place fantastic systems that allowed me to work from home and still be able to engage with my clients with ease."

Julia Banwell. Old Mill
Meet Jo

Client Manager, Jo Rossiter has worked at Old Mill for 21 years and alongside Julia for nine, but like many, she has never worked from home before.

Working alongside each other for several years, along with a shared passion for horses has helped Jo and Julia build a strong relationship. During their daily 4 pm catch up they’ll discuss Julia’s workload and client needs (as well as equestrian matters)! Having just created a study in her home, Jo was in the fortunate position of having a dedicated working space when lockdown started. As a result, she has adapted to lockdown exceptionally well.

Connecting with clients

Jo has always liaised with clients daily over the phone, through email or in face to face meetings so, apart from the physical contact, in many ways, her working practice hasn’t had to change much. When scheduling video calls with clients for Julia, many have been surprised with how easy they have been, and the feedback has been really positive. It’s great that, despite the situation, those conversations and meetings can continue.

Staying active

Every morning Jo exercises before work to give her a boost and socially distanced walks with her neighbour, running or tending to her vegetable garden helps to keep her active. Jo is a carer to her 92-year-old Dad, so balancing work and family life keeps her days busy – she is looking forward to gaining a taste of normality when her riding club starts up again.

“Having access to MS Teams has kept the team together, although the chats in the kitchen while making a cup of tea are no longer there, the ability to still see each other has helped hugely.”

Jo Rossiter. Old Mill
Meet Paul

Paraplanner Paul Palmer and his wife Sally have been in lockdown with their two children, Edward (age 15) and Stanley (age 11), with both Paul and Stanley having experienced lockdown birthdays this year.

Paul has worked for Old Mill for just over 15 years and has always been slightly reluctant to work from home before. However, after realising that all our systems and processes work seamlessly and eventually deciding on the best home working space, Paul has seen the benefits and flexibility that home working has brought him and his family.

How to stay connected with the team

The paraplanning team meet twice a week to discuss work allocation, technical matters, progress on client work and keep in touch with each other – the only change is the meetings are now via MS Teams. Paul also has regular catches up with the Financial Planners that he works with to help prioritise his workload as well as gain a better understanding about work in the pipeline. These meetings are also an efficient way of talking through the detail of current work with other team members. Working from home has removed many of the opportunities for these conversations to take place on a more informal basis, so this has caused Paul to be more pro-active and disciplined in reaching out via video calls for these catchups with colleagues.

When the schools re-opened, Paul, after ten weeks of home schooling, adapted to a slightly different routine, which included incorporating a school run into his day. He now starts work earlier to allow him the flexibility to take longer breaks throughout the day so that he can meet his family commitments. For many, the transition from work to home has become blurred. Walking the dog at the end of the afternoon, followed by a relaxing sit in the garden, enjoying the beautiful weather has helped to signal the end of the working day for Paul.

Paul has had to put his interest in horse racing on hold during the lockdown, but now that that this has just re-started behind closed doors, he has something else to focus his attention on.

“It will be nice to go back and see people face to face. I think I must be more sociable than I thought.”

Paul Palmer. Old Mill
Meet Lucy

One of our most recent recruits, Lucy Towner, joined Old Mill at the end of 2019 as a Client Service Administrator.

Training while in lockdown

Working for three months in the office before lockdown began gave Lucy a thorough grounding in all of our systems, so the change from an office to a home environment was a straightforward and enjoyable experience for her. Using MS Teams for team chats has also been valuable with help and guidance to continue developing her knowledge of our systems and processes whenever it’s needed. Weekly video calls which include a light-hearted quiz help boost morale.

The importance of routine

For the first couple of weeks, Lucy didn’t have a set routine. Providers were changing their working methods due to the transition of homeworking and COVID-19 restrictions, which created a level of uncertainty. By week three, she had established her working practice, which enabled her to discover the benefits of home working. Getting up early to do a personal training session via Zoom or having a half an hour chat over coffee with her Dad before work, has helped her find some normality in a time of uncertainty. At the end of the working day, a run, cycle or dog walk helps her unwind properly and transition into her evening.

Missing social interaction

The social interaction is a common theme, whether that’s with family, friends or catching up with colleagues around the photocopier, it’s nice to have that physical interaction during the day. As lockdown eases, Lucy is looking for a new riding school when the new normality returns, as sadly hers had to close due to COVID-19.

“MS Teams has been a lifesaver, especially from a training point of view and getting to know other colleagues who I don’t interact with daily in the office has given us a real sense of community.”

Lucy Towner. Old Mill
What about the future

Julia, Jo, Paul and Lucy have all adapted successfully to working from home. As lockdown eases and we return to a new normal, we’re looking to maintain a healthy balance between home and office working. Virtual relationships can never replace real ones and we’re looking forward to reconnecting face to face with those family members, friends and clients that we’ve all been missing. At the same time, we’re learning that video calls have a part to play on an ongoing basis – it’s so nice to be able to see a client when talking to them remotely.

Our offices will re-open when we can guarantee a safe environment for you and our colleagues.